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Self-healing polymers render their life cycle more sustainable by recovering their properties upon healing. Intrinsic self-healing polymers can be recycled, which further reduces waste production. Yet, despite these intrinsic benefits, several sustainability issues remain largely neglected, including the use of fossil-derived materials, hazardous chemicals, and the material management at the end of its life. Herein we report a series of castor oil-based self-healing elastomers that account for these challenges and show improved mechanical and self-healing capabilities compared to the other bio-based self-healing materials. Castor oil was functionalized using a simple, one-pot, solventless synthesis from renewable resources and crosslinked by Diels-Alder cycloaddition. They can be reprocessed and recycled, or hydrolytically degraded at the end of their service life. The mechanical properties of the materials can be tuned (Young’s modulus 0.5-20 MPa), with a fracture strain of up to 487%. A fracture strain of 100% could already be recovered after just 60 seconds at room temperature, and 75% of the mechanical properties after just 24 h. By taking advantage of these properties, a soft pneumatic gripper has been developed, capable of healing autonomously which is fully recyclable and degradable. Hence, we provide a sustainable alternative for soft-robotics applications and for self-healing elastomers in general.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 860108 (SMART), by the EU FET Open RIA Project SHERO (828818), and by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek via junior postdoctoral fellowships 12E1123N (Brancart), 1100416N (Terryn), and predoctoral fellowship 1S84120N (Roels). The authors acknowledge Robrecht Verhelle and Mohammad Bakhsh for the determination of the reaction kinetic parameters using the in-house developed MATKIN software to support the results in supplementary information.
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